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WSS actors go Back to the Future

Students rewrite film to fit the stage at the Maury Young Arts Centre, but where will they park the DeLorean?

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It's the usual pre-rehearsal cheerful chaos in the music room at Whistler Secondary School (WSS).Drama teacher Sandra Droulis is guiding students through Back to the Future, their main theatrical production for 2017.

The idea to adapt the 1980s classic film to the stage came from two students, Stephane Barnett and Chase Velenosi. They spent months reworking it and are playing the lead roles, Marty McFly and Doc, respectively.

"It was fun to write. We watched the movie multiple times," Barnett says.

"We added scene changes, looked at how we could adapt the curtains for big scenes and smaller scenes, and how we'd use our band, and stuff."

Within two weeks of last year's WSS production of The Outsiders, the two 17-year-old Grade 12 students were champing to create the next show.

"We had no idea what we wanted to do. We sent Ms. Droulis an email during Spring Break but she wasn't sure. So we thought of a movie we both love and proposed the idea. She told us we'd have to do it on our own," Barnett says.

"Over the summer we got together a few times and worked on it. The biggest challenges were how to adapt it to the Maury Young Arts Centre (MYAC). How we could change the scenes to fit the stage?"

Their biggest disappointment was to have to cut Marty McFly's skateboarding scene, and his pet dog.

"Other than that it is pretty similar," Barnett says.

Auditions were in early September, and the 60 or so students in the cast or crew have been preparing ever since.

"Like every year it's a big rush at the end because the actors and the technical crew can't really work together at the school. We can't work with sound, music and the lights. So the week before the show, when we can get into MYAC, it's all hands on deck," Velenosi says.

And what about the famous DeLorean? Where they able to secure a loan of the sports car? How about the plutonium needed for time travel?

"We'll keep that secret," Velenosi laughs.

Branett adds: "All we will say is that it's going to be a big surprise. The stage crew has been working tirelessly on (the time machine). I checked it out today, it's impressive and unique. It looks awesome."

Barnett started the WSS drama program when he was in Grade 8 and Velenosi in began in Grade 10.

It has made an enormous difference to both their lives.

"I can express myself a lot easier, public speaking is a lot easier. If I can speak in front of 90 people, I can public speak in front of 1,000," says Velenosi.

Another Grade 12 student, Kyle Beltran, has been working backstage.

"It has been very interesting," he says.

"I really love the arts, so I enjoy it. Most of my classmates do. Most of us have been doing it for three years. It's a nice finish to school."One of his future options, he says, is to take the skills he's learned in the theatre program and work on movies.

Droulis is clearly proud of her students.

"It's a decent chunk of kids from the whole student body. Most are in Grades 11 and 12, though there are a few Grade 8s, 9s and 10s," Droulis says.

Music has also played a role, with a band being part of the play for the second year running. Droulis also brought in local musician Jeremy Thom to work with the students.

"I've been trying to grow the performing arts in general since I came here six years ago," she says.

"I have students who come in at lunch time to practice drums and piano. There are a lot of musicians at the school, the only thing is that there is no formalized program other than what I do here."

Droulis says that one of the gratifying things is the sheer variety of interests of the kids taking part.

"People figure the actors are theatre kids, but it's actually full of hockey players, football players, soccer players. A lot of athletes," she says.

"The kids are making friends and hanging out with others they might not normally get to know. It's so great to see how everyone comes together with a common purpose. I am lucky to work with these kids."

WSS's production of Back to the Future takes place at the Maury Young Arts Centre at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 9, Friday, March 10 and Saturday, March 11.

Tickets are $15 and available at www.artswhistler.com.

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